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Do You Really Know What Your Dental Assistant Does?


Brittany and Kaela, Dental Assistants at Duke N. Bui, DDS

“Dental Assistant” and “Dental Hygienist” may seem to be interchangeable terms.

When you get to know your Dental Assistant, however, you’ll quickly learn that assistants have a very unique role in the dental office.

Can You Recognize the Dental Assistant?

The assistant wears scrubs and perhaps even a lab coat, just like the dentist and hygienist. He or she will also have a badge or name tag and look very professional. You may not be able to tell right away whether the first person you meet is a hygienist or assistant, but it becomes clear later on.

After you check in for a dental appointment, the assistant is likely to be the first person you meet. He or she will come to meet you in the waiting room and bring you back to a cleaned and prepared treatment chair.

The assistant will help you settle in, review the reason for your visit, and perhaps take a few x-rays, if necessary.

Come treatment time, the assistant will be right by your side as the dentist works.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

All Dental Assistants practicing in the State of Washington are required by law to have an active registration. This registration means that your Dental Assistant has received the required education and training on preventing disease transmission in the dental setting.

Additionally, assistants are required to be CPR-certified so that they can respond quickly in the event of an emergency.

Dental assisting can be easily learned on the job, but most assistants take a course at a dental assisting school to learn the basic skills before finding a job.

Some assistants choose to broaden their skill set by applying for a certification in dental anesthesia or an Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary (EFDA) license.

Dental Assistant Responsibilities

Depending on the extent of a Dental Assistant’s training and experience, responsibilities can include:

● Welcoming patients to the dental practice ● Updating health history ● Taking x-rays ● Taking intraoral photos ● Polishing teeth ● Administering topical fluoride treatment ● Placing dental sealants ● Taking preliminary impressions ● Fabricating temporary crowns ● Administering nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” ● Giving patients directions about preparing for or recovering from a dental procedure ● Ensuring the dental practice is well-stocked with supplies ● Cleaning and disinfecting treatment areas ● Sterilizing dental tools and equipment ● Serving as the dentist’s second set of hands during dental procedures

Dental Assistants work in different settings ranging from oral surgery practices to orthodontic treatment centers to general dental offices. They continually sharpen the skills needed for whatever specialty area they work in.

In general, Dental Assistants do anything they can to help keep the workflow of the dental practice running according to schedule.

The Important Role of Dental Assistants

Assistants make it easier for dentists and dental hygienists to do their jobs. They also play a critical role as the patient’s advocate during treatment. The assistant helping the dentist during a procedure will make sure you’re comfortable and relaxed at all times.

If you have any questions about your procedure or oral hygiene routine, feel free to ask your Dental Assistant for help. Many patients actually find it easier to talk with an assistant than with a busy dentist when they have concerns. A good assistant will help bridge any communication gaps between you and the dentist.

So the next time you see a smiling face when you walk into a dental practice, this could be the Dental Assistant. Remember that this is a carefully-trained, knowledgeable, hard-working, and empathetic professional.

Dental Assistants work to ensure you have a comfortable and successful appointment.

Need a Dentist in Tacoma?

Whether you have a toothache, want to talk about teeth whitening, or suspect that you need a filling, schedule an appointment at Duke N. Bui, DDS, PS. When you arrive, you’ll meet our team of superb Dental Assistants, Kaela and Brittany, and discover how they’re the lifeblood of our practice.

Call us today to plan your visit and learn more about Dental Assistants in Tacoma and how they contribute to healthier smiles for everyone.

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